Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Sometimes, even I, home repair juryrigger extraordinaire, call a professional.

Our front room has a built-in woodstove. It's a long skinny room (20'x10') with one of those 70s flagstone fireplace walls on the short end. That'd be kinda horrible (fireplaces are really inefficient ways to heat anything), but it's got a stove insert in it! When we bought the house we decided it was some obscure heatolator, and due to air quality stuff it was sold as-is, so we didn't really know much about it.

I suffered through a truly horrible winter with $4/gallon propane (like $15/day in winter) and the tiny woodstove in the den, then last fall I got the front stove cleaned and inspected. My chimney dude said it appeared to be in good shape, but it was totally homemade. But the fan came on when you plugged it in and flipped the switch, so that's what I ran this winter. And dude, it might be homemade and woefully inefficient compared to modern stoves, but it seriously put out some heat!

Back in January or February the thermostat quit working. A male person who resides here part time fiddled with it, and after he'd fiddled with it, it didn't work anymore. We googled but couldn't figure out what model it was, much less what we could comparably replace it with, so I just turned the blower on manually when I lit a fire and turned it off in the morning. No big deal.

Then I went to Rides of March and came home victorious and sat on the couch all day Sunday. I built a roaring fire that night and slept toasty warm on Sunday night, except that I had this really weird (even for me) dream about a zombie washing machine detaching itself from the wall and coming to kill me. I woke up a little and thought, in that half-asleep way, that it wasn't a zombie washing machine, it was the dryer, with rocks in it. Then I woke up more and realized (a) there were no rocks in the dryer and (b) the dryer wasn't running at 3 am. I staggered up and investigated the very real very loud noise and determined that one of the ball bearings had gone out in the stove fan and it was killing itself. The fire was almost out, so I flipped the switch and went back to sleep.

When I got up I sort of wondered if I'd dreamed the whole thing, but when I turned the fan on it made a very sad sound and turned half a rotation and died completely. Well, hell.

I unscrewed the grill, just to see if I could get the fan out of the firebox somehow, and the fan fell down inside the box and I threw up my hands in despair. I'd just gotten a new tank of propane, and it wasn't very cold, so I kind of ignored the problem. For a whole week. But eventually I started feeling really guilty when I turned the thermostat up to 70, and really cold when I left it at 65, so I broke down and called for help.

I've used Morin since we moved to Reno, and he's just a great guy. He's a full-time firefighter / part-time chimney sweep. He laughed at my stoves the first time he came out, but he did it in a "laugh with me, we'll get through this" way, not a "you idiot!" way. He told me how to get the most out of what I've got, and promised that if it can be fixed, he can fix it. So when I called and said "I don't know if you remember me, but I live in Lemmon Valley and I've got that homemade ancient Heatolator..." he knew right who I was.

He's fixed me up better than new. (Which, admittedly, isn't a high standard...) He pulled out the old fan:

and mounted a modern new blower fan on the outside:

(See the switch? that's the switch to turn the fan off and on. Totally homemade, dude.)

There was a fan on the other side of the box, too, but it didn't work when we bought the place. We didn't know why, and we didn't really investigate. While Morin was out here, he did investigate, and this is what he found. Looks kinda like a fan...

A sad fan. With totally melted blades.

Looks like long ago it seized up, and after it quit working the heat of the fires melted the plastic bits. Classy.

He mounted the new blower on the first opening and bolted some metal over the second opening to close it off. The new blower is slightly quieter than the old fan and pushes even more warm air out, so I'm just thrilled.

I asked about the thermostat - it's a 40 year old dealie from an oil furnace. We're just not touching it. Flip the fan on when you build a fire, flip it off when it goes out. Good enough.


I have gone red again

and I got a new shirt

That's all I got!


  1. "He's fixed me up better than new. (Which, admittedly, isn't a high standard...)"

    Thanks for the laugh, I needed it, and I must say I LOVE the shirt.

  2. You can't go wrong, goin' red!!! Looks good :)

    I empathize with your previous heating troubles, when we moved into this house there was an ancient fireplace (w/no insert) and some approximately 1950's baseboard heaters which I refused to ever try out.

    There was ice on the inside of the windows in the mornings...brrrrr....good thing I'm a polar bear:)

  3. Now how good a fit is that for a second job? Firefighter that is a chimney guy lol

    It was a huuuuge PITA to find a chimney guy out here. But I do love the heat we get from our pellet stove (our backup is electric, heating ducts not baseboard)

    I am strangely happy to be the one that linked that shirt to you...

    1. Yes, MAD PROPS to cdncowgirl! I keep an informal firewall between Facebook and the blog - I don't blog everything that happens on FB - but yes, you get full credit for it!

    2. Wasn't asking for props, was just happily pleased to know you well enough (from a distance) to know that shirt was you!

    3. Oh, and I am sort of the same... not all that shows up on FB shows on the blog and vice versa.

  4. That shirt is awesome!! LMAO!!

  5. Good thing I swallowed the mouthful of coffee before I scrolled down for to the pic of the shirt. OMG! Hilarious!!!!

  6. Hair and shirt together?--I second Aarene.

  7. Is Morin planning any trips to western Canada soon? I could totally use his advice and expertise to add an alternate heat source to this place - I have only electric baseboard heaters.

    Love the red hair (I wish I had courage to do stuff like that) and the shirt!

  8. That pic? Smothered in awesomesauce.

  9. Love the hair and fun shirt! And I know all about the heating issues. My only heat is wood stove. No propane, one other plug-in heater (which is seriously for the cat). I love these houses with all this crap just jury-rigged...but it works, until it doesn't!

  10. Yes, yeeesss, YYYEEEEEESSSS! Love the shirt. ;)

  11. Glad to hear that you've got more heat. A cold house in winter is no fun. Seems odd to have used a plastic fan next to a fire. Just make sure you don''t get monoxide in the house. Nice hair! My wife regularly dyes her hair red, of which I approve.

  12. That shirt is truly radness! :D

  13. As if your not sassy enough, now a red head?? Oh, what will we all of us Funder blog readers do now!!! lol:) So , the most disturbing part about this whole fan story is that you never seemed concerned that this "unit" of a heater is a bit of a fire hazard!! Glad it's fixed and your safe.. er.. safer...


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